Last night five of the six progressives on the Salem City Council approved a payroll tax that everyone who works in Salem has to pay, even if they don't live in Salem.
It was a shameful decision. And I've chosen to use that word, shameful, because Mayor Chris Hoy, one of those who voted for the payroll tax, got irked at Councilor Gwyn when she said to her fellow councilors, "Shame on you, shame on you." (Thanks to Salem-Keizer Proletariat for reporting that comment in an informative post about the meeting.)
I didn't attend the meeting, nor did I watch it online. I'm thankful that I didn't, since the 6 pm meeting ended around 11 pm, which is a ridiculously long time to expect citizens to put in to see their local elected officials in action.
Rachel Alexander of the Salem Reporter attended the meeting, though, tweeting about it throughout the evening. Here's an example.
Alexander also has written a story about the decision, aptly titled "Salem councilors vote to tax worker paychecks after citizens overwhelmingly ask them not to."
The Salem City Council voted narrowly Monday night to tax the paychecks of Salem workers after listening to over two hours of public testimony overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.
Councilors voted 5-4 to implement a tax that would have the average person who works in Salem pay about $500 per year to close a city budget deficit. The additional money would pay for existing police officers and firefighters and adding more of both and keep homeless sheltering services open after the federal and state money currently paying for them runs out next year.
The vote took place after 11 p.m., near the end of an at-times heated meeting where citizens spoke emotionally about the impact a new tax would have on their budgets, and councilors at times sniped at each other during deliberations.
“My earning power is decreasing rapidly. I’m very concerned that if this tax is passed I will not be able to afford housing,” said Margaret May, a Salem resident and state employee. She called approving the tax without sending it to voters “cowardly and shameful.”
A crowd filled the council chamber at the start of the 6 p.m. meeting but their numbers dwindled into the night as audience members looked on, at times snorting or applauding as councilors spoke about their intended votes.
Councilor Julie Hoy led an unsuccessful effort to refer the tax to voters at the next general election.
The five councilors who voted for the payroll tax were Mayor Chris Hoy, Virginia Stapleton, Linda Nishioka, Trevor Phillips, and Micki Varney. The four councilors who voted against the payroll tax, after a motion to refer the tax to voters failed, were Julie Hoy, Deanna Gwyn, Vanessa Nordyke, and Jose Gonzalez.
The Portland Oregonian has republished the Salem Reporter story, which will help show much of Oregon that the Salem City Council is dedicated to ignoring citizen input in favor of going along with a money-raising scheme put forward by City of Salem staff, as a tweet from Angry Owl stated.
That last comment is right-on. The City of Salem does indeed work for the City of Salem bureaucracy, not the public. But the five city councilors who voted for the payroll tax, all progressives, failed to ask tough questions before they mindlessly decided to tax the average worker $500 a year.
Like, why should the Police and Fire Departments be lavished with $17 million of the $28 million to be raised each year by the payroll tax when those departments already suck up the vast majority of the city's general fund budget?
And, if the payroll tax is such a great idea, why not ask Salem voters to approve it at the November election?
I came across a comment by Clifford Eiffler-Rodriguez on a Facebook post that was so close to how I feel about last night's outrageously bad decision, I'm including it below.
I'll end by saying that what struck me about last night was how much it reminded me of contentious City Council meetings when conservatives controlled the council.
Back then, there would be lengthy meetings where the Mayor and other council members were taking some action to further the cause of a Third Bridge across the Willamette, which I liked to call the Billion Dollar Boondoggle.
Lots of citizens would submit testimony against the Third Bridge, many testifying in person. But the City Council wasn't really listening to them, because their minds were made up ahead of time. So they'd try to look as interested as possible while clearly being disinterested in the public input.
Same thing happened last night, except now it was the progressive majority on the City Council who ignored the views of citizens and did what they were planning to do because city staff told them to do it.
Like the Facebook commenter said, that isn't leadership. It's the opposite of leadership. To my mind, shameful cowardice.